It’s no secret that President Shimon Peres is very fond of Israeli music and theater. For most people it might have been somewhat nerve-racking to try to figure out what to give an 87-year-old man for his birthday, particularly if that man happens to be the head of State. For the powers-that-be at the Cameri Theater it was a breeze.

Combining two of the president’s leisure-time pleasures, they put together a variety show of story and song that highlights the signposts of Peres’s long and multifaceted career as a public servant.

The only real problem they had was in making a final decision about who would participate in the lineup because so many celebrities from the entertainment industry wanted to be part of the show.

Master of ceremonies will be actor Natan Datner, who performed the same task last year at Tel Aviv’s Duhl Center for the Performing Arts in the Hatikva neighborhood, where Peres – whose poetry has been set to music – was made an honorary member of The Israel Union of Performing Artists, which had organized his 86th birthday bash. He also received honorary membership from the Association of Composers and Musicians.

While it was a great show, it didn’t quite equal Peres’s 80th birthday celebration at the Mann Auditorium where Bill Clinton and Liel Kolet had serenaded Peres with John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”

Among the celebrities who will be appearing on Monday, August 16, are Eyal Golan, Amos Oz, Riki Gal, Miri Mesika, Shiri Maimon, Yardena Arazi, Lea Koenig, Boaz Mauda, Avi Toledano, Kabra Kasai, Maharta Baruch, Mira Awad, Hedva Amrani, Tomer Sharon, Maya Feingold, the Cameri Youth Ensemble and others.

The show will represent not only landmarks in the president’s life but also the ingathering of the exiles, in that the performers come from an extremely broad cross section of Israel’s immigrant communities.

Lea Koenig, for instance, will take Peres back to his childhood with the Yiddish song “Oifn Pripitchuk” (By the fireside). There will be songs from the time he was on kibbutz, such as “Hayu Leilot” (There were Nights), and Tomer Sharon will allude to the creation of Israel’s military industries and atomic reactor when he sings “Totzeret Ha’aretz” (Made in Israel). Avi Toledano will present a medley of French songs, to signify the special relationship between Israel and France forged by Peres more than half a century ago. And of course there will be songs about peace and video clips of significant events in which Peres was involved.

Actually, it will be difficult to distinguish between the president’s personal story and that of the State of Israel.

Organizers of the event anticipate many emotional moments, among them a speech by Shai Gross, who was one of the Israelis captured by German and Palestinian terrorists in 1976 and held hostage at Entebbe Airport Terminal in Uganda. Gross was six years old at the time, and Peres was defense minister.

Peres was actually born on August 2, but his family along with the entertainment industry have always celebrated his birthday on August 16 – and this year is no exception.

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